After 13 months of tense labor talks, West Coast port employers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have made progress towards resolving their disputes. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced that Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su is in San Francisco, where negotiations have been taking place, and is “encouraging them to reach a resolution.” Business groups are urging U.S. President Joe Biden to appoint an independent mediator since the West Coast ports are vital to U.S. supply chains.
The ILWU dockworkers at ports from California to Washington state have been working without a contract since July 2022. Unions are demanding a larger share of record profits garnered when cargo shipments surged during the pandemic. The Pacific Maritime Association employers group has criticized the union for worker absences, which PMA alleged were intentionally slowing West Coast ports. Specific concerns were raised about worker shortages in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle this month.
Despite not officially striking or slowing work during talks, some workers expressed dissatisfaction with the employers. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka stated that “both sides are probably disappointed, upset, frustrated.” However, he noted that “we’ve only had a handful of bad days.” ILWU President Willie Adams reaffirmed the union’s goal of reaching an agreement, and if talks fail, mediation does not work, and port operations cease, Biden can invoke federal labor law to force resumption of normal port operations.
The West Coast ports are critical to U.S. supply chains, and business groups have been pressuring for a resolution to the labor talks. Hopefully, the progress made in the latest round of negotiations will lead to a successful resolution that benefits both workers and employers.
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